4 Aspects of Your Roof That Encourage Ice Dam Leaks

4 Aspects of Your Roof That Encourage Ice Dam Leaks

If your home has ever experienced an ice dam leak, you may be wondering why you were so unlucky and how it was able to happen. Several roof-related factors can affect the chances of suffering this type of leak. Learn the causes and take some practical steps to reduce your risk, and you won’t have to panic whenever you see an icicle.

Here are four factors that could encourage ice dam leaks.

1. Insufficient Ventilation

Proper attic ventilation gives roof shingles a longer life and reduces energy expenditure. Good attic ventilation is critical in wet and cold seasons. Without good ventilation, condensation forms on the roof deck and can cause mold and rot. Improper attic ventilation can cause or assist in ice buildup as well.

An ice dam leak often gets its start in life when the lowest layer of snow is melted by heat coming through the roof. This newly liquid water then drains to the cooler edge of the roof where it can refreeze, causing an ice dam. The more heat leaks through your roof, the faster this process goes, and the more likely you are to have ice dam leaks as backed-up water moves beneath your shingle roof.

On the other hand, great ventilation means you have plenty of cold air sweeping into your attic and up across your roof deck. This keeps the roof nearly the same temperature as the outside air, so the bottom layer of snow doesn’t melt as fast.

2. Poorly Insulated Attic 

Another contributor is how much heat escapes into your attic or roof space. The more heat your attic collects, the harder it is to keep your roof deck cold. One way to help your roof out is to simply install additional insulation on the attic floor.

You should also tackle air leakage. If you have warm-air leaks into your attic from downstairs, another layer of insulation won’t solve the problem alone. Attic bypasses, which are holes in the attic floor that let wiring, ducts, and other essentials through, can be a big culprit here.

In some cases, attic bypasses can simply be closed up with expanding foam. However, some (such as around the chimney) require special techniques. Be sure to hire an experienced contractor who will keep things up to code and not create any hazards while closing up bypasses.

3. Clogged Gutters or Downspouts

Gutters aren’t necessarily the most common cause of roof leaks, but they can contribute to ice dam formation when they’re malfunctioning. If your gutter or downspout is filled with dead leaves or bird nests, any snow that melts won’t be able to drain away before it re-freezes. And once it re-freezes, the ice is the perfect springboard for an ice dam leak.

Fortunately, clearing out your gutters and downspouts in fall can mitigate this factor. You may also want to install screens on your downspouts and covers on your gutters so you won’t have to clean them out multiple times during the winter.

4. Rough, Dark, or Flat Roof Surface

Since asphalt shingle roofing is so popular in residential America, having a rough, dark roof surface is the norm. This type of roof, especially if it has a low pitch, is highly susceptible to ice dams.

However, if you have a steep metal roof, you’re in luck. Metal roofs are reflective and smooth, which helps snow to slide off the roof. This is especially the case with a steep roof. With less time exposed to your roof’s surface, the snow is much less likely to form an ice dam.

As you can see, some types of roofs are more prone to ice dams than others. But if you stay on top of maintenance and repairs, you can make your roof much less likely to have this problem. For assistance with roof ventilation and other ice-dam-preventive upgrades, call SUNVEK today.

Coating Flat Roofs

Coating Flat Roofs

Depending on the type and condition of the roof system, recoating may be an option for extending the life of the roof. Coating costs less than roof replacement, and may provide additional benefits as well. Some benefits obtained from coating a roof can be as follows:

  • Extended roof life
  • Reduced heat gain
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Prevent water penetration

Coatings may be applied over a variety of properly prepared roof surfaces. Typically applied over foam, with proper preparation coatings may also be applied over roll roofing products such as modified bitumen, PVC (poly-vinyl chloride), TPO (thermoplastic polyolefin), rubber and others, as well as over shingles and even metal.


The Process

The process of recoating generally consists of the following:

  • Sweep and/or blow loose debris off the roof.
  • Patch or otherwise repair damaged areas
  • Pressure wash to remove adhered debris and dirt
  • Prime the roof surface as needed to ensure coating adhesion
  • Apply roof coating – may be more than one coat

Due to the time involved at each step in the process, the typical roof may require as many as five trips to complete.

Foam Roofs


Typically foam roofs are restored and maintained with elastomeric acrylic coatings. These coatings contain elastomers (resin) which enable the coating to shrink (with cold) and stretch (with heat) without cracking. They also include titanium to reflect ultra-violet rays from the sun, slowing the rate of deterioration. The primary purpose of elastomeric coatings on foam is to protect the foam from the sun, since ultra-violet rays damage foam.


For best durability, white is the preferred color for an elastomeric coating. However, other lighter colors will also perform well. The darker the color (tint) of the coating, the shorter the life span. Accordingly, it is less costly over time to use the lightest color possible as a roof coating.


The primary alternative to elastomeric acrylic coatings is silicone.  Silicone has the advantages of acrylics, together with having a longer service life and the benefit of holding up well in ponding water situations.  The downside – the initial investment is higher.


Potential Problems

The primary concern with elastomeric coatings is adhesion, or how well the coating sticks to the existing roof system. Adhesion problems are evident when there is sheeting of product, meaning it peels off, or when there is blistering (or bubbles) in the coating. With proper preparation, the chance of adhesion problems is reduced. In cool weather, coatings may not set (dry) as quickly as desired, which can result in cracking due to freezing. Or, rain may come before coatings have set, resulting in coating washing off a roof. In hot weather, the surface of coatings may dry too quickly, sealing moisture underneath, which then causes blistering.

Coatings should be applied only over a clean, dry and solid surface. If moisture is in the existing roof system, coatings will seal that moisture in. Over time, the moisture will rise to the underside of the coating, where it is trapped. With warmth, it will vaporize, resulting in blistering. With cold, it may freeze, forcing the coating to separate from the roof system.


Plan to Plan

Monsoon storms have come and gone for 2014. How did YOUR roof fare? With record breaking rains, wind and even hail in many parts of the state, it was proven even the best-built roofs cannot always withstand the wrath of Mother Nature. If your pitched roof valleys were filled with debris or your flat roof drains had not been cleaned out in awhile, chances are you suffered some damage. SUNVEK is available year-round to assist with annual roof checks, seasonal maintenance and all types of repairs. Make a plan to call on us before the rains, next year. Don’t let the unpredictable Monsoons catch you unprepared and unprotected.

Looking for a STAR

We are looking for a commercial roofing consultant who is a self-starter, communicates clearly and accurately, reads blueprints and manages his client base with the utmost integrity and care. We will provide some leads and will count on you to build your client list with referrals. If you are motivated and interested, please contact Anita at the number on our website.

Monsoon Ready?

It’s hard to imagine roof problems on a hot, dry day when temperatures are soaring. The monsoon season is here, and with it, unpredictable weather. Over the next few months we will experience more severe weather than many other states. Monsoon storms bring high winds, dust and torrential downpours, resulting in damaged roofs and expensive repairs. Minor roof issues can quickly become major problems during monsoon season.

Maybe you had people working on your roof last winter installing solar, fixing your air conditioning, or fitting a new skylight. Or maybe you have trees near your property, overhanging your roof. Any of these could have caused roof damage that could quickly become an expensive problem this summer. If you are not certain your roof is ready, check with a licensed, insured roofing contractor to be sure. Check SUNVEK!